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Using a career fair to your advantage

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This article is by my friend Bless Vadian

Career Fairs show case match-making between employers and job seekers. Numerous screening interviews take place under one roof, and under a few hours. If you are not a fit, you will not be selected by the recruiter for the next round. Only those that ‘match’ proceed to the employer site.
College Campuses are an ideal place to find Job & Internship Fairs. You can also look online to see a variety of fairs in your city. I have worked on and managed Career Fairs over the years. Those serious about getting a job or internship need to follow this advice:
1) Prep
You cannot walk into a Career Fair and ‘wing’ it if you are serious about finding employment. Just as research is key to interview success, it’s also crucial for the fair. You need to find out ahead of time what organizations will be attending. Then you must check out the websites of your target companies, view their job postings, read their latest articles/tweets, and find out if you know anyone in your extended circle that works there. Never say you will ”take anything”, because you will wind up with nothing. That shows you are not prepared.
2) Pre-Screening
Recruiters at Job & Internship Fairs have two piles of resumes. Only candidates that make it to the ‘right’ pile will be getting a follow up meeting. Your goal is to make it to the pile that passes the Recruiter’s filter. Fill out online profiles ahead of time so that when an employer asks you if you filled out their online application, you can say ‘yes’. Make sure the resume you bring to the fair is free of errors, has an easy to read format, and highlights exactly what you want it to highlight. Job descriptions should be quantified with metrics, accomplishments, and keywords that are relevant to the industry and posting.
3) Spotlight is On
The Human Resource representatives at Career Fairs are viewing you even before it’s your turn to talk to them. Anything inappropriate you say or do in that room or while waiting on line will be noticed. Be on your best behavior. You should be dressed in interview attire, wearing a smile, and engaging those around you while you wait for your turn. You have only a minute to shine in the spotlight, but remember the spotlight is always on.
4) Answer the Question: Why You?
If you are looking for an internship or job, you should have a pitch. Your pitch answers the question: ‘why an employer should hire you.’ You can’t think of what to say to that inquiry on the day of the fair. You need to know what skills make you a good candidate for the role. If you don’t know why an employer should hire you, then they won’t. Those that tailor their pitch to match the industry, position, and employer get selected.
5) More than a Resume
What gets you a follow up meeting after the Career Fair is more than a resume. It’s the combination of a good resume and the ‘package presentation’: speech, expressions, handshake…etc. Anything that would make the recruiter think you cannot represent their organization, clients, or products will move you into the ‘do not pursue’ pile of applicants. Your communication skills, positive attitude and energy needs to come across the minute you step foot in front of the hiring representative. That is just as important as the resume.
The great thing about Career Fairs is that those seeking employment can have face-time with dozens of recruiters. Hiring professionals that have posts to fill can meet hundreds of applicants. It’s a ‘win:win’ situation for both groups. Look online to see when your college is hosting its next employment fair. I am assisting with two Job & Internship Fairs this Spring at my University. I love to get feedback from recruiters as to what matches were made. When I look through the room of job seekers, I know who is making the cut. Be the ‘match’ an employer is looking for by taking your next Career Fair seriously and taking my advice.
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Bless Vaidian ~ Twitter ~ Linkedin ~ Facebook

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